Saturday, July 2, 2016

"The Flyer" by Saga

Song#:  1706
Date:  11/26/1983
Debut:  82
Peak:  79
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  Canadian band Saga broke through to the US with their fifth album Worlds Apart. That LP was boosted by the #3 Rock track (#26 Pop) "On the Loose." They retained producer Rupert Hine for their next effort, Heads or Tales. This first single got a little traction at Rock where it peaked at #17, but it was unable to really make any kind of dent in the Pop chart. It would end up being their final Pop chart entry. The song would be a non-starter in their home country where it missed the chart completely. Despite the lack of a hit single, the LP went to #17 in Canada and would eventually go gold there. It would also be a Top 10'er in several European countries.

ReduxReview:  Well, this song is certainly no "On the Loose," but it's good in a Fixx kind of way. They have the same producer (Hine), so it's not surprising the bands sound a bit similar. Hine's production is excellent, as usual, but there is not much here for a Pop audience to grab on to and remember. However, the song itself kind of drew me in and I wouldn't mind digging up the album to see what it had to offer. I've seen a couple good write-ups about it. As far as the single goes, definitely not bad, but it's not really chart-worthy.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although the band's charting career in their home country of Canada would end in 1987 with their album Wildest Dreams, they would remain very popular in Germany in the following years. Since Worlds Apart reached #2 in that country in 1981, all but two of their next eighteen albums reached the German chart. Their latest effort as of this writing, 2014's Sagacity, hit #17.


Friday, July 1, 2016

"This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" by Talking Heads

Song#:  1705
Date:  11/26/1983
Debut:  85
Peak:  62
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After years of being a critically lauded, cult-ish band, Talking Heads broke through to the mainstream with their song "Burning Down the House" (#9 Pop/#6 Rock). The single came from their fifth studio album Speaking in Tongues as did this follow-up song. The more subdued tune couldn't make any headway at Rock, but it did ride the Pop chart for a couple of months. It was the first (and only) time the band was able to get two singles from one album on the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  The release of this single mystified me. It's a lovely little tune and something kind of sweet from David Byrne, but in no way does it make for a good single. So why would it have been chosen over what seemed like a slam-dunk second single with "Girlfriend Is Better?" It didn't really make sense (perhaps they stopped making sense?). The only thing I could figure is that they were in the process of prepping the soundtrack/movie Stop Making Sense and already had eyes on "Girlfriend' to be a single in a live version. I really don't know. I think it was a lost opportunity. Regardless, this single is what we got and although very pretty, it just didn't have the oomph to really make it anywhere.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This composition is a rarity from David Byrne as he typically does not write love songs. It ended up getting the subtitle "Naive Medley." This was due to the structure of the song. It stemmed from a jam session the band was having. The guitar and bass began playing the same little melody and just kept repeating it. That repetition of the exact same line throughout the song is something that Bryne stated a pro musician probably would not play, but they liked their naive little melody and formed the rest of the song around it.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

"The Politics of Dancing" by Re-Flex

Song#:  1704
Date:  11/26/1983
Debut:  89
Peak:  24
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This British band was initially developed by John Baxter and Paul Fishman. The rest of the line-up would change several times before finally settling on a group that would record their debut LP The Politics of Dancing. This lead title-track single, written by Fishman and sung by Baxter, would get issued in the UK early in '83. It did reasonably well getting to #28. The single was later issued in the US and the results were similar with a Top 30 showing at Pop. The song did slightly better at Rock getting to #19, but its best success was a #8 showing on the Dance chart.

ReduxReview:  I'm not really sure why this song didn't do better. It's got a great chorus ("ooooo feelin' good!"), the production is spot-on, and Baxter's vocals are pretty awesome. It just sounds like a hit. I didn't buy the single at the time, but I know I wanted to. Later on, I was able to rediscover it thanks to its including on an 80s compilation. Others should do the same. It's a lost synthpop gem that needs to be dusted off and admired.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Apparently, when the producers of the upcoming soundtrack for the soon-to-be hit film Footloose were scouting around for songs, this one made it to their desk. It seemed to be a good fit for the film's central theme of a community that has banned dancing and it was seriously considered. In the end, it was set aside in favor of Shalamar's "Dancing in the Sheets." The film would be a sizable hit, but the soundtrack would become a bit of a phenomenon in a Flashdance kind of way. The album would reach #1 and remain there for ten weeks.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Wet My Whistle" by Midnight Starr

Song#:  1703
Date:  11/26/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  61
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  This Kentucky outfit broke through with their fourth album No Parking on the Dance Floor. Its first single, "Freak-A-Zoid," was a #2 R&B smash that crossed over to the Pop chart for a #66 showing. This follow-up song would do slightly better at Pop while becoming another R&B Top 10 (#8). It was also successful on the Dance chart getting to #15.

ReduxReview:  After "Freak-A-Zoid," this tune is a bit of a letdown. It's an okay groove, but it really doesn't go anywhere. The thing that bothers me about it is that the groove, keyboard riff, and when they sing the title, it sounds eerily similar to Evelyn King's "Love Come Down." I doubt they were trying to rip off that excellent song, but they are similar. Play them back-to-back and you can hear both the similarities and how inferior this song is to King's. It's not bad, just kind of "eh."

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Several members of Midnight Star would go on to write and produce for other artists. Bo Watson would co-write hits for Shanice and Klymaxx, but his best success came when he co-wrote "Rock Steady" with his Midnight Star band mates Reginald and Vincent Calloway. The song would revive the career of The Whispers and reach #1 R&B/#7 Pop in 1987. It would end up being the most successful single of that group's career.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"Memphis" by Joe Jackson

Song#:  1702
Date:  11/26/1983
Debut:  94
Peak:  85
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Jackson's Night & Day would the biggest charting album of his career (#4) thanks in part to the #6 showing of the single "Steppin' Out." Around this time, film director James Bridges approached Jackson about the possibility of him writing music for an upcoming project. Bridges wrote a script title Mike's Murder specifically for Debra Winger (Bridges had directed her in Urban Cowboy) and it was given the go-ahead by the studio. Jackson said yes to the project and wrote songs and instrumentals to be used in the film. Unfortunately, after a re-edit of the film, most of Jackson's music was removed and replaced with a score by composer John Barry. Regardless, the record company still forged ahead and issued his songs as a soundtrack to the film. This song was selected for release as a single to promote the album. It didn't get very far and neither did the soundtrack. It didn't help that the film was a box office dud. Jackson would rally back with his next studio album.

ReduxReview:  If Joe Jackson collaborated with The B-52's, I think this is what it might sound like. That beat and the surf-ish keyboard riff is straight out of the B's playbook. It makes for an interesting track, but not necessarily a good single. With Jackson practically rapping and just an emphasis on "Memphis!," there is not much for a pop radio listener to cling on to. I like this song and its quirkiness, but it's just not in the same league as Jackson's other classic singles.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  After working with Debra Winger on 1980's Urban Cowboy, director James Bridges set out to write a script specifically for Winger. She signed on for the lead role and filming began early in 1983. Bridges' original cut of the film had the story being told in reverse chronology with Joe Jackson's music being used as the score. The movie was completed and shown to test audiences. It did not go well. This gave the studio pause and they were also concerned that audiences would not understand the reverse timeline aspect. The issues caused the studio to cancel the film's original release date in order to make fixes. In the meantime, another film that Winger had completed was quickly becoming a major hit - Terms of Endearment. With her soaring popularity and Oscar nod for that film, the studio moved to get Mike's Murder out. The new version of the film put the story in a regular timeline and composer John Barry was brought in to do some score work to enhance certain scenes. Most all of Jackson's music was removed from the film with a couple of his songs being used in the background during some scenes. With Jackson at a career peak, his label (A&M) made an unusual move and went ahead and issued Jackson's full score and marketed it as both a soundtrack and as Jackson's new LP, even though most of the music would not be heard in the movie. This was done way in advance of the film's new release date set for March of 1984. Although Jackson's album didn't do very well, it still did better than the actual film which completely bombed at the box office.


Monday, June 27, 2016

"Read 'Em and Weep" by Barry Manilow

Song#:  1701
Date:  11/19/1983
Debut:  53
Peak:  18
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Songwriter/producer Jim Steinman scored big time when two of his songs rode the #1 and #2 positions for four weeks ("Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler and "Making Love Out of Nothing At All" by Air Supply). The successes rejuvenated the careers of two artists and now others were looking to Steinman to help them out. One of those artists was Barry Manilow. Manilow's career was slowing down with some of his singles barely scratching the Pop Top 40. As he was prepping his Greatest Hits, Vol. II album, Manilow needed a new song to promote in order to help sell the disc. He reached out to Steinman and the pair set out to record this epic ballad that was cut from same vein as Steinman's previous two hits. Although Manilow had recorded his share of big ballads, this pairing with Steinman was considered odd and it garnered a lot of attention. With a stylized concept video ready for MTV, the single was issued and it went on to top the AC chart in short order. Pop responded well and the track found its way into the Top 20 - his first to do so in two years. Unfortunately, it would also end up being his last Top 40 entry bringing an end to a streak of hits that began with the 1974 #1 "Mandy."

ReduxReview:  Steinman and Manilow? Yes please! After igniting Bonnie Tyler and Air Supply, I thought this match-up would be awesome. I did like it, but it wasn't as amazing as I had hoped. The song is just not quite as good as the other two hits and Manilow is a bit stiff on his delivery. He's always been good at tackling the big ballads, but he really needed to let loose in order to sell Steinman's Wagnerian arrangement. Overall I think it still works, but it is more of an oddity in Manilow's catalog rather than a defining late-career moment.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Whereas Steinman's two hits for Tyler and Air Supply were newly written epics, he reached back into his catalog for Manilow and grabbed this song that was originally penned for and recorded by Meat Loaf. The song appeared on Meat Loaf's third album (and second with Steinman) Dead Ringer. Although the album would be a hit in the UK (#1) and other European countries, it stiffed in the US when it couldn't produce a hit single. This song was released as a single, but it failed to chart. Manilow's version contains a few minor updates and has a more elaborate production.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

"Gold" by Spandau Ballet

Song#:  1700
Date:  11/19/1983
Debut:  68
Peak:  29
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Spandau Ballet enjoyed their first US hit with the #4 title track to their album True. The ballad would reach #1 at AC and it would be the band's first and only #1 in their UK homeland. This follow-up almost reached the top of the UK chart, but it got stuck at #2. In the US, the song wasn't as popular and it stalled just inside the Top 30 while making it to #17 at AC.

ReduxReview:  "True" was such a distinctive ballad that most any follow-up was gonna pale in comparison, however, this song was a worthy contender. It's a wonderfully sophisticated song led by an excellent vocal turn by Tony Hadley. The UK recognized this and the single came close to topping their chart. Unfortunately, listeners in the US didn't quite get it and the song came and went with little fanfare. It's really too bad. I thought for sure this would be their second Top 10 and was disappointed when it stopped inside the Top 30. It deserved to do better.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  So how did this classy, clean-cut, blue-eyed soul/pop band get their name? Apparently, from a bathroom wall. It seems the band was getting set for a gig, but still had not chosen a new name (they were originally called The Cut and then The Makers). A friend of the band mentioned he was in a nightclub in Berlin and saw the words "spandau ballet" scrawled on the bathroom wall. The band liked it and their new name was set. They did so without really knowing its gruesome origins. Several stories about the phrase are out there, but two seem to be the most plausible. First, during WWI, Germans used a machine gun, the MG 08, that was commonly called the Spandau, which was after the town where it was manufactured. When the gun was used on the front lines or in an area where soldiers would be caught on the bobbed wire fences, the bodies would twitch when the multiple bullets would hit. The twitching would be known as the Spandau ballet. The second common usage seems to come from a prison in Spandau where Nazi prisoners were held after WWII. After their wartime convictions, the prisoners were hanged and as they dangled in the air before their death, their legs and feet would often move about almost looking like they were doing some sort of macabre dance. This then became known as the Spandau ballet.